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June 5, 2022

Luminosity through the Darkness: the Story of Abandoned Dogs in South Florida and the filming of Dan

I need to find something to believe in each day. I need to know the goodness of humanity still exists, that the density and the deluge are but passing phases in our culture. It’s an aphorism that the effects of war, violence, greed, deprivation, and other offenses to the soul and spirit are taking a toll on our psychological and emotional bodies. We are all feeling the effects.

There is, quite simply, no escape. This is life in our present time.

Like many of us, I feel the need to find the goodness in humanity as affirmation that it still exists.

This spring, I met a new animal-loving connection, a professional filmmaker sharing his work on YouTube ( The founder, Cristian Ruben’s, work is a movement of inspiration and love in a time most needed. His devoted passion for shining the light of awareness on the plight of abandoned dogs in South Florida isn’t that of your everyday dog lover. His new project, Dan, is a documentary-in-the-making, of a man thusly named, tending to the lives of abandoned dogs in the scrublands of South Florida.

Dan, by, is the story of the family dog driven to the end of a South Florida road to the Redlands with all the hope in his heart for a walk with his person and then a meal served in the kitchen he has come to know.

Instead, the family dog is here for another reason: A one-way ride, a shove out of the minivan, a moment of confusion, then reality setting in – no meal at the end of any long walk with the person he once loved and trusted.

Abandonment, loneliness, betrayal, starvation, and injury, even, become the new world of the once-loved family dog.

Can the shelters help? They are overburdened, working hard to help others who have gone before.

If they cannot, who can? Humanity feels overwhelmed.

People turn a blind eye, closing off their hearts, shutting off their minds. All the while, the once-loved family dog becomes part of a different kind of pack.

It reminds of the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I think of Charlie in the Box, discarded for his imperfections, longing to be loved.

This is the new pack of abandoned dogs left to fend for and protect themselves. Left out in hurricanes and storms, left to be struck by trucks on highways, left to suffer from tickborne diseases or heartworm and die premature deaths from starvation and lack of preventative or curative veterinary care. Left to die, when these companion animals that were born to be cared for by their people are discarded like old lamps.

Dan is an inspirational story in a sea of desperation and despair. Cristian’s work is divinely inspired in an aligned effort to demonstrate his love of animals and a want in his heart to help ease their suffering, work that offers back to us a beacon of light, love and hope. Daily, he visits Dan, tracking his life with a growing pack of abandoned dogs. As Dan drives out to handfeed kibble to fearful, wary dogs, Cristian records the exchanges and converses with Dan to learn of their stories.

At last count, the pack was around sixty.

How did the dogs come to be here? Cristian asks.

People drive out here, Dan answers, open the door and push out the family dog. They back up, the dog runs after the car, and the people speed away.

A man of limited means on a meager income, Dan pulls from his own resources to bring kibble and as much veterinary care as he can afford to these once-loved, now-abandoned dogs. Cristian procures donations of dog food and veterinary care, recording Dan’s comings and goings. His filming shines a light in the darkness of their reality of being thrown away by another, betrayed by those to whom they gave of themselves and are now struggling and alone.

In supporting Dan, Cristian encourages him in the courageous, yet simple act of showing up.

All of these efforts are keeping these dogs going in a time threatening their daily existence.

We all know that feeling seen in our efforts to help others can be just the encouragement needed. It is inspirational, informing others with a brewing idea in the backs of our minds, that the world will be as we make it, not how others define it.

In all the density of ugliness created by pernicious effects of malice, greed and ill will, lie cracks of luminous energy shining through. Interstices, veins of goodness, suggesting that all is not at as solid as it appears. An indication, perhaps, that what feels real and ineluctable, can be dissolved with just the right dose of love.

As I learn more of Cristian’s work in filming Dan, I feel the love inherent in his creations. Cristian himself is as broke as a panhandler on Boulder’s affluent Pearl Street Mall, but is finding purpose and intention in highlighting the needs of others even less fortunate than himself.

Together, their acts reflect love, light and hope. And what is love in the murkiness of a dark moment? It’s efforts like this, a reaching out to help another when they’ve fallen. It’s a gesture of benevolence in a surge of indifference, a rush of defense in the act of barbarity. An offering of humanity to honor the intrinsic goodness often hidden in another.

Love is what we hold on to, when the force and happenings in life want us to believe otherwise.

Cristian brings love to his work as Dan brings food to these once-loved dogs. Together, they offer hope for others that their hearts may open to expand into gestures of kindness. Open to the effects of life, often as sharp as a knife wound. It’s the kind of hope as soft as the gentleness of a dove’s feather, a gesture as gracious as the wing of an angel dropped from celestial light, shining on us all to show the goodness in life itself.

These dogs represent humanity failed, tossed out in a time when humanity is pressed to live through a pandemic and economic strife, when the threads of devotion to the life of another are severed with the butcher knife of abandonment. Despite all of this, these dogs long to be loved and treated like the deserving beings they are. And they are featured in the story of Dan, one of the selfless, heart-centered, animal-loving enlightened men, bringing humanity to their existence.

I’m fortunate to come to know Cristian and to help facilitate his work in bringing love, light and hope in our murky dark, and critical time. And I’m blessed to know of people such as Dan, a simple man of modest means, holding the dove’s feather of love to heal the wounds of abandonment, neglect and abuse to the vulnerable, now homeless dogs in the Redlands area of South Florida. In the simple act of showing up in their full humanity with the support of others, they are a guiding light, leading a hopeless, deserving pack of once-loved dogs, through to a better way.

If you’d like to track the progress (or support) the work of filming Dan, check out Cristian’s work through on YouTube:

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